De Boer Structures
Renting and developing tents - from Alkmaar to Qatar
About De Boer Structures
Founded in 1924, De Boer Structures was originally a family business. Until 2005, it was still partly owned by the De Boer family; now Structures is part of NPM, which in turn is part of SHV. The core business has remained the same: rental of temporary accommodation, developed in-house.
In addition to the headquarters in Alkmaar, there are also major locations in Belgium, Germany, and the UK. Additionally, there are points-of-sale in Spain, France, Austria, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, China, Russia, and the U.S.A. The logistics centre is in Bree, Belgium.
2000 projects per year
Although much of the material transfers from project to project, a warehouse function is indispensable.
Approximately 400 staff work at De Boer Structures, and during seasonal peaks that number can expand by an additional 200. Every year, they complete some 2000 projects; this works out at 40 to 50 truckloads per day.
Designing temporary accommodation
De Boer Structures has a reputation in the Netherlands for providing temporary accommodation for large events, but they are also known globally. They do much more than that: for instance, they construct prisons that need to stand for a few years, and temporary supermarkets that are set up because of renovation work. The development of these temporary buildings requires an in-house R&D Division that can use Inventor to design this accommodation.
This can safely prevent components from being shipped from Switzerland for a project in Barcelona, or shipping from France and Germany for another project, further supplemented with material from our storage facility in Bree. As Paul van Leeuwen, technical manager, tells us, 'proper project coordination saves on costs. In total, the company has over half a million m2 in accommodation.'
Qatar and America
Van Leeuwen explains further: 'De Boer Structures is involved in nearly every major international event, such as European Championships, World Championships, and Formula One races. The Asian Games were also held in Qatar; we remained there as a spin off, and now we have even set up an office. Because of the great distances between this location and our other offices, we use warehousing.
Our market is not limited to events; we are also asked to respond quickly in the event of emergencies. For example, we set up a morgue after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and built housing for relief workers after the bombings in London. Furthermore, we have provided regular accommodation for events such as concerts, festivals, trade fairs, parties, and product launches.
Get ahead of the competition with in-house R&D
De Boer Structures does not have a monopoly in the industry; in fact, we face strong competition. The majority of our competition is regional and national. As soon as the projects and/or the distances increase, our competitors often fade away. In addition, our company is characterized by exclusivity, as well as the development of special private accommodation. Most smaller tent rental companies do not have their own R&D division.
Façades spanning more than 50 metres
Our product selection includes many peak frame tents: Alu halls, Jumbo halls, the Double Decker with different levels, the oval or round Panorama with glass walls, the Emperor with the option to install floors, balconies, and canopies, the Millennium Dome with a 52-metre diameter, circus tents, and the list goes on. Some façades have a free span of up to 50 meters wide.
Van Leeuwen explains: 'We can also deliver models "turn key," meaning that they are ready for immediate use, complete with interiors, air conditioning, and connections for gas, light, IT, and water, as necessary.' Except for the short or medium term, semi-permanent accommodation is also manufactured and erected. These include temporary supermarkets, offices, auto showrooms, factory halls, or baggage handling at Schiphol, all mainly due to new construction or renovations. He points out: 'Currently, some temporary prisons have been standing in the UK for three to five years. For this project, we use the All Weather hall which was developed in Sweden. This has been built with steel components to withstand snow, and it can be adapted for extreme weather conditions by using sandwich panels and insulation.'
Need for larger, more complex accommodation
Previously, only one technical person was responsible at the De Boer Structures for making new accommodation, which he built for the most part from the knowledge in his head. Accommodation was also being purchased then which is these days developed here, so the drawing database was not very large. Now that there has been a change in management, and because of the technological and market developments, there is a growing need for larger and more complex accommodation.
Engineer Bart Mooij describes the operations: 'Alkmaar now has an R&D division that employs seven people who design the "hardware": the frames and connections, but also the lifting equipment for the construction of the buildings. In addition, two colleagues from the Sales-CAD department make the renderings and animations using AutoCAD VIZ and Photoshop for the quotes and brochures, and to give customers an impression of how the building will look in the environment after is has been constructed. Our Sweden branch also has an R&D division that focuses on the Scandinavian market and the All Wheater halls. In Bree, Belgium, the PVC roof tarpaulins (so-called "software") are being developed by two colleagues.'
Interchangeability of components
'Most of the component manufacturing is outsourced. As a result, you no longer have the corrections that are made by your people if they discover something is not quite right during production. The drawings therefore had to be 100% correct. The suppliers receive the drawings in the required formats, such as PDF, DXF, DWF, STEP, and IGES.
A lot of sheet-metal work and aluminium extrusions are used in the manufacturing of the components. We are also doing more and more with plastics, such as moulding or injection moulding, thermoforming, lasering, tube lasering, laminated wood, etc. We have over 100 of our own extrusion profiles which are used for CNC processing.'
Van Leeuwen explains: 'We made the switch from AutoCAD to Inventor at the beginning of 2006. The accuracy of 2D drawings leaves something to be desired. With 3D models in Inventor, the design and product match perfectly, and we can keep a better eye on the interchangeability of components.More about Autodesk inventor
Modularity, standardization, and strength-to-weight ratio
In the case of design, three things are important: modularity, standardization, and an optimal strength-to-weight ratio in relation to the cost price.' Mooij explains: 'The modularity is necessary because having exchangeable components means that you require fewer variants, so having equal dimensions is helpful. Optimum accuracy means that similar components actually connect without having to make modifications to the structure. Standardization: for example, all floors are made in the system. The optimum strength is important when choosing materials and the loadbearing capacity of connections. One time, a hall may have to be 50-metres long; the next time, 200-metres long. The components must be able to cope with extreme and intermediate lengths.
Updating and continual development
Currently, an important task is updating the drawing database, not only from 2D to 3D, but also a simultaneous redesign. Continual development using the latest materials and production techniques.
For continual development that takes into account wishes, complaints, and new techniques, we frequently consult our colleagues in the field to take advantage of their knowledge. We also travel with the structure to monitor any issues that arise. In addition, each year a totally new product is developed, which usually is more complex and has more options than its predecessor. Because time is of the essence during assembly and disassembly, and we deal with extreme circumstances, we use smart and the simplest possible connections.
Many components click into one another or connect and are fastened using locking pins; we try to avoid the use of threaded screw connections. You're less reliant on tools this way. The components also cannot be too small: think of the loss from losing them in the mud or grass.
Van Leeuwen observes: 'As the modules are used repeatedly, accurate measurements are very important. Twenty components in a row have to be the same length as the next twenty. Accurate measurements from tenths of a millimetre to half a millimetre may appear rough, but due to the size of the components it is challenging to find the right suppliers.